Friday, May 28, 2010

Books 13 &14

Book #12 
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
I did not like this book at all.

I was eager to read it to relate it to my own Mennonite heritage, and I expected some good-natured ribbing of Mennonite culture, but I didn't expect the mean-spirited and destructive bashing of all things Mennonite.

It should be noted that the Hartzler side of my family is Mennonite, and I attended a Mennonite church with my family until I was about 12; perhaps because of my youth my memories tend to be rather golden . . . when I talk about growing up in a Mennonite church with a friend of mine who lived in a much more conservative Mennonite community until she was well into adulthood, our experiences and perspective differ drastically.  Just as within any denomination, there are wide differences between churches and forms of legalism.  The church I went to, and the one I now attend, doesn't require women to wear head coverings or dresses or anything near that form of Mennonite.  . . .  I could not love any church more than the Mennonite church we now attend.  

I couldn't place what form of Mennonite community the author, Rhoda Janzen grew up in, and perhaps if I'd have had her experience I would be bitter too . . . but it seemed that the only purpose of the book was a cynical and violent attack of her family and friends.  

I kept reading, hoping the book would redeem itself, and I think at the end she was trying to show her softer side, a gradual appreciation of her upbringing . . . but too much damage had already been done.  No one in that community was safe from Rhoda exposing and shaming.  I feel bad for all of the many people she mentioned by name and told humiliating stories about.  (Her childhood truly did not seem at all bad-- compare it to Jeannette Walls of the Glass Castle, who experienced a horrific childhood and yet wrote with far more sensitivity and respect to her family).  The really irritating thing about the book is the way that she prides herself on being an "intellectual" . . . she has a PhD . . . and everyone else is "undereducated" and ignorant.   She only left the impression of one of the "mean girls" from High School who finds great pleasure in smearing other people.

This book was nothing but destructive, the total opposite of the gentle, generous, and peaceable Mennonites I have known.  

Updated:  I should have clarified that the fact that Rhoda is no longer Mennonite, or her theological views (not that she spent much time at all on theology), really didn't bother me-- I felt that her stories were poking cheap fun of people on a personal level, such as the way the dressed, their personal habits, etc.)

Book #13
I can't believe I have never read this book!  What joy.  And what a contrast from the previous book, the difference of Art as Gift.  Loved it, will likely read this one again and again.

"Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything."
- Madeleine L'Engle, 
A Wrinkle in Time

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!


charrette said...

"A Wrinkle in Time" is one of my favorite books ever. I read it in sixth grade and remember realizing for the first time how much pure truth Ms. L'Engle had woven into that amazing work of fiction. It shaped the way I read fiction to this day.

As for the first book, it sounds like she has become learned, but perhaps not wise. It makes me feel sad when people speak mean-spiritedly about any religion,and particularly their childhood faith. We have recently experienced the opposite -- as our oldest matures he has come to appreciate the wonderful spirit he feels at church and is looking for a meaningful way to incorporate that into his adult life.

The Mennobrarian said...

I'm so glad to hear that someone else with a Mennonite background was as turned off by Menno in a little Black Dress as I was. It would have been more helpful if the publisher made it clear that the author grew up in a liberal Menno-Brethren church, and had no ties to the church she grew up in for many years until she moved back home. After all, she married an atheist! It also seemed like she went on and on about her educational background, but that makes me think that it was through her connections in the higher-ed writing field that she found someone to publish this crass book.

granny said...

As someone who grew up in a mennonite home and church I can understand that we all had different experiences. Mine were not good. I do not remember ever hearing about the Grace of God. I just rember hearing that I was goin to HELL if I did not follow what I was told. I was not to question anything and when I did I was never given a straight answer. I left the church as soon as I could. I am now 59 and to this day if I go to a mennonite church I have to fight back the tears. I have been in therapy and tried to work through all of this but the scars are still there. I believe in God and have accepted Jesus as my savior but that is not because of the church I grew up in.

camilla said...

We're taking "A Wrinkle in Time" on CD for the kids to listen to on our road trip this summer. I wondered if they might be too young, so I let them listen to about five minutes. Daniel didn't want me to turn it off, he was interested already.

Jessica said...

Granny, I sympathize with you and have no doubt that many churches/religions have left long-term scars and misrepresentations of God that never fully heal . . . I am glad that you have found a relationship with Christ despite the church you grew up in!

Heather of the EO said...

I haven't read A Wrinkle In Time! Now I will. I don't know how it happened either :)

Ali Harding said...

jess, i LOVE wrinkle in time and have the second book in the series though i haven't read it yet. glad you loved it too. :)